KNOX - Sitting in the heart of downtown Knox is a local institution, the Lewis Barbershop. On Wednesday, the community pulled off a surprise 50th anniversary party for the shop's owner, Larry Lewis.

"This was a complete surprise," the 68-year-old Lewis said. "My wife started asking me a few things a couple of months ago about when I started and who some of my customers were. I told her that if she was thinking of throwing a party to forget it. I forgot about it.

"Then (on Wednesday), she told me we were going downtown. Then she said to park in back of the shop, something I never do. When we walked around to the front of the shop it seemed like the whole town was here."

Amanda Curry, who is Lewis' daughter, said the family used social media to plan the event because "Dad doesn't use social media. Once it got out there it just took off. He is someone to be proud of."

According to Lewis, the shop has been around since 1877.

"I barbered with Glenn Hiwiller and he had 50 years in from 1924 to 1974," Lewis said. "I took my apprenticeship under him. He sold the shop to me and I have had it ever since."

Lewis graduated from Erie Barber College on July 2, 1969, and started in the Knox barbershop the next day.

"I have a few regular clients. I lose a lot of them every year," he said. "When I started, some of them were in their 40s and they are in their 90s now, but they still have hair - well, most of them."

Lewis said the new hairstyles "are not my game. If someone comes in and says they want shaved on the side with a design, I tell them to go to the beauty shop."

The shop is about more than cutting hair. It is about the Knox community.

Lining the rear wall of the shop are rows of shaving mugs.

"There are 36 shaving cups up there," Lewis said. "The men would have their own shaving mug here; when they came in they would pull the mug down, and you would lather him up and shave him.

"Some of the cups are over 100 years old. The ones with the names on them are the really old ones. One mug belonged to a funeral director and another to a high ranking officer in the Knights of Pythias."

Hanging on another wall are two photos, one from the shop in 1912 and the second of the shop in 1927. There have been some changes over the years, but the bank of shaving mugs remains unchanged.

Lewis even has a wall of fame in the shop.

"Anytime a kid excels at school in band, choir, football or track, I would put their picture up on the wall," he said.

Lewis also is proud of the softball trophies he has earned over the years from the Knox Horsethief Days softball tournament.

"They call me the George Steinbrenner of Knox," he said referring to the late owner of the New York Yankees.

Also on the walls of the Lewis Barbershop are license plates from unusual places.

"I have several from servicemen who were in the Middle East, Guam and one from Japan," Lewis said. "We had a foreign exchange student in town and he used to come to the shop. He asked about the license plates, and after he went home he sent me one from Japan."

Throughout the years, though, Lewis didn't restrict himself to just cutting men's hair.

"My first haircut was with Dad," Curry said.

Even after 50 years of cutting hair, Lewis has no plans to retire.

"I don't get as many customers as I used to," he said. "Sometimes, some of the men will stop by and just chat. I have some good days and some days are not so good, and that is all right, too."

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